Poremski Dynasty Ends
In The Port of Baltimore
BALTIMORE, MD. – The extended Poremski family has had quite a history on the docks and in the offices of the Port of Baltimore. As for myself, I began working on the docks in 1965 as a general longshoreman, hustling cargo on and off the ships. From 1978 to 1985 I was an elected union official in Local 333 of the International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA). Starting In 1985, and stretching until my retirement on November 1, 2017, I served as a Field Representative simultaneously for two ILA-Steamship Trade Association of Baltimore trust funds that the union-management trustees use to provide contractual fringe benefits to the ILA longshoremen and women in the port. And now after 52 years of combined and interconnected union-management employment, I made the somewhat bittersweet decision to retire at age 72.
PHOTO: Retirement After 52 Years of Service. Richard P. Poremski – of the Polish American Journal’s Washington Bureau – is depicted in the Port of Baltimore with a mammoth containership looming in the background, as he prepared for his retirement on November 1, 2017. (Photo by Julie Mitchell)
During my career I witnessed the total transformation of the cargo operations from hard manual labor to relativly easy containerized automation. It used to take a gang of 20 men, 1 hour to move 20 tons of break bulk cargo by hand. Now the skyscraping container cranes can easily move the same 20 tons in 2 minutes, lifting the 20-feet or 40-feet cargo loaded containers quickly on and off the ship – almost like the crane operator is playing with giant steel Legos – and with a smaller work gang. It’s a totally amazing and revolutionary transformation of the shipping industry that started small in the 1960s United States with shipments from the mainland to Puerto Rico, and then exploded exponentially across the globe. Everything is now shipped in containers – from ping pong balls to heavy machinery, with every imaginable consumer product included in between.
The Poremski family at-large has cast a sizable shadow across Baltimore’s waterfront, along with that of a commanding presence of Poles and Polish Americans. It included my grandfather, father, two brothers, two uncles, a brother-in law, and a cousin. Another brother retired recently with 50 years of service and management at the Maryland Port Administration. Collectively, we have at least a few hundred years of total service in the shipping industry. And we also left some blood on the docks … my mentioned grandfather was tragically killed in the early morning hours of August 16, 1947 after being swept from the deck of a cargo ship onto the pier by a sling of long steel beams.
I was just past two years old at the time, and who could ever have imagined then that I would be the last family member to follow in my grandfather’s footsteps onto the docks and ships – and would be the last Poremski left standing at the end of our longshore dynasty? We now have gone full circle … but I enjoyed every minute and year of the decades long multi-faceted blue and white-collar work environments.
But I’m not retiring from the Polish American Journal! I’ve been writing for the PAJ since the State Visit of Polish President Alexander Kwasniewski in July, 2002. I cover many events at the Embassy of the Republic of Poland as well as Polonia happenings in Washington and Baltimore. I also enjoy sharing my occasional and very interesting experiences in Poland with the readership. I’m also very involved in many aspects and organizations of Polonia, as well as being Chairman of the National Katyn Memorial Foundation and the Vice President of Council 21 of the Polish National Alliance, both located in Baltimore.
In any event, you can look for my PAJ articles into the foreseeable future, with the pleasure being mine to continue to serve you to the best of my ability.
Richard P. Poremski